Sunday, March 30, 2008

More Than One Way to Solve a Problem

All I did was make one measly little comment about how the chicken coop foundation seemed small, especially at an aerial view when it could be compared to the outhouse. So while I was in town fetching groceries early Saturday morning, the engineer solved the smallness issue. He and the kid would just eliminate the old three hole privy from the equation. By the time I got home it was lying on it's side.

Upon announcing my displeasure with the goings on, they claimed the wind knocked it over. An excuse I almost believed considering the rotted shape that old building was in. But then I noticed the ladder. Not to mention the cat-that-caught-the-canary look on their faces. In reality, they had just pushed it over with their bare hands.

So then the excuses changed to me saying I wanted the outhouse removed because I had been afraid it would collapse on one of the dogs when they chased squirrels in there. Well, yeah, but not today! Today we need to be working on a chicken coop, we've got eggs baking! The excuse then finalized it's self as we need to reuse some of the outhouse materials to build the coop. Uh, huh. Sure. Fine. Whatever. It took them all day to break it up and haul away the debris. I'd say about 98 percent of the wood is not usable because of rot. So after an entire day's labor they were able to save this...

I have a sneaking suspicion this is going to be one of those things the engineer regrets as he works amongst the chickens who will be living in his workshop if the coop isn't finished in time. What do you think?

Friday, March 28, 2008

A Groundbreaking Decision

Mathematically it should be big enough. But now that the digging has begun and you can clearly see the boundaries it seems awfully small doesn't it? Especially when looking at it from the second floor of the house. Now I'm wondering if we should make it 12 x 16? I supose I'd better hurry up and speak now or forever hold my peace...

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Counting My Chickens

They made it. My eggs arrived via Priority Mail today. All 32 of them are intact and in seemingly perfect condition and resting comfortably in the incubator.

I only ordered 26. Looks like Iggy and Etta decided to get busy and double their chances of populating our coop. So our totals going into the incubator are 12 White Crested Black Polish (the big hair chickens), 12 Plymouth Barred Rocks, 3 Barred Rock over Blue Ameraucana, 3 Barred Rock over Buff Orpington and 2 Barred Rock over Cochen/Silkie Rock mix. So this should be interesting to see what we end up with because as the old saying implies, it's unlikely they will all hatch.

There are lots of factors going into their survival. It's a crap shoot really. One, the egg may not even be fertile. Two, the shipping may have caused issues. Three, there may be issues with the incubator. Four, they may fully develop and then for no apparent reason not be able to break out of their shell. Or five, I may do something stupid and screw things up. As you can see lots of things could go wrong. Particularly with me involved. So for the next three weeks, while all of you are going about your productive lives, I'll be sitting here staring at and turning eggs three times a day while biting my nails. If all goes well I'll have some cute little fuzzy things to show you in 21 days.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Planning the Chicken Garden

We try to keep things as original as possible around this old house. Reuse vs replace and all that. The original chicken coop is another story. After 100 years it's been deemed uninhabitable, well except for the wild turkeys who consider it deluxe accommodations.

So we're finalizing the plans for the new chicken coop/garden shed. We've scrounged around the barn and have come up with some old kitchen cabinets, a lot of cement block and all the doors and windows we could ever need. I thought the old cast iron tub would make a great brooder, but figured asking the engineer to move it might send him over the edge. After a trip to my parents house, we'll have shingles and a few fence posts. While we were out this weekend we priced the rest of the materials and picked up what we needed to start restoring the old windows. At least that job can be done in the nice warm workshop.

Then today I started scratching out a floor plan and the engineer turned it into this thing of beauty when he got home. All we need now are a few warm weekends to make this plan come together.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Spring Chicken Fever

As I sit here looking out the window at the fresh spattering of snow on the ground, I realize we've got a serious case of spring chicken fever. It needs to start warming up, and fast. We have well pits to dig and chicken coops to build. This below freezing stuff is seriously impeding our progress. We need to get cracking 'cause I've now got six eggs coming this week from Iggy and Etta, too.


I've been tinkering with the incubator all day. The temperature has to be between 99.5 and 101.5 degrees with 50 % humidity. Easier said than done. This is complicated stuff, it's going to require continued tinkering. How on earth hens can do this all by themselves with brains the size of a pea must truly be one of life's miracles.

We did get the mini coop assembled this weekend. I tried doing it by myself and had to beg for assistance before the end of step one. I swear those ready to assemble kit instructions are badly written on purpose. They can't really think people understand those pictures can they? I think it's just some guy's way of sticking to the man, only we're the ones getting stuck.

This will serve as transitional housing when the birds first get moved outside. The hubster is going to build a large fenced run and attach it to give them plenty of room to scratch in the grass. Because, after all, that's pretty much all chickens do. After they move out I plan to keep it for a hospital coop. I could also use it for a maternity ward if I get a hen that wants to raise her own chicks. Or, chickens can be meaner than grade school kids on a playground and often need separated. In that case, it could be considered solitary confinement.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

The Chicken or The Egg?

Unlike when I was a kid, this time around we'll be getting the eggs first. While the Easter Bunny has been running around hiding colored eggs, I've been out buying an incubator to nuke some. In the spirit of education we've decided instead of ordering chicks or buying them at the feed store to turn this into a science project and hatch our own. I can remember my dad hatched a batch and it was so exciting waiting for them to poke their way out of the egg. The 21 day wait for them to incubate was excruciatingly long, given that you have to turn them three times a day. But I was probably only about 10 years old and 21 days seemed like a lifetime.

I saw a post offering the "Forest Gump Special" on a chicken forum. Most of the eggs will be Barred Rocks but some "you just don't know what you'll get". How fun is that?! We'll be getting 20 fertilized eggs in the mail sometime this week. Here's the information I have about the parents from the "adoption file".

Hawkeye, a Barred Rock, is my main flock rooster and is two years old, a sweet, calm guy. He will be the sire of all the chicks.
DCP_6808.jpg Hawkeye May 11, 2007 picture by ClutchHutch
These are our Barred Rock girls. Lexie and Ivy are two years old and Amanda and Becca are a year old.
DCP_9461.jpg picture by ClutchHutch
DCP_5879.jpg Ivy, 1 yr Old picture by ClutchHutch
DCP_8699.jpg Amanda Dec 07 picture by ClutchHutch
DCP_8697.jpg Becca Dec 07 picture by ClutchHutch
Ginger, Buff Orpington
DCP_4087.jpg My Gingersnap picture by ClutchHutch
Sunny, Buff Orpington
DCP_7572.jpg Sunny July 13, 07 picture by ClutchHutch
Charlotte, Blue Ameraucana
DCP_8203Charlotte.jpg picture by ClutchHutch
Kate, sired by a standard size Cochin/Silkie cross roo over a Barred Rock hen
DCP_7946Kate.jpg Kate, 8 mths old picture by ClutchHutch

As my husband pointed out, I'll bet my Dad is up there smiling right about now. Sure wish I could call him and ask for chicken hatching advice though.

Friday, March 21, 2008

You Might Live on a Farm in Indiana if...

you buy your spring fashion footwear the same place you buy your chicken feeders.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Man the Pumps!

We're taking on water, which in turn is causing us to have no water. No nice, clean running water out of the faucets that is. Plenty of dirty, grungy bug-infested water floating in the well pit though. About a foot and a half of it is submerging the pressure tank switch. It seems, electronic devices don't work very well when they're submerged. Go figure.

The old well pit houses old pressure tank number two and the current number three. Old number one is still in the basement complete with it's hand pump. Which I'd like to point out, oddly enough, if it were submerged would still work. Anyway, it's hard telling how long ago the well pit was built but what we do know, as of first thing this frosty morning, is that it has a few leaks between the concrete blocks.

We had patched the obvious cracks in the above ground part last fall. That may have helped keep the critters out, but it didn't do diddly squat for keeping out the ground water below. Short term solution is a small sump pump we fortunately had lying around. The real solution to this problem though will be to dig a six foot hole all the way around the outside of the pit and repair the cracks.

And even better news, the local plumber who rushed over and replaced the switch for us says pressure tank number three might be on it's last leg. And pressure tanks aren't cheap. But at least the new switch will allow me to take a shower.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

The Grace God Gave a Goat

My husband picked himself a mighty fine prize marrying me. Yes sir, I'll bet I'm his pride and joy, seeing how I carry myself with such grace and all. Just after I woke this morning, I descended the front stairs in true Scarlett O'Hara fashion, my delicate hand brushing the bangs from my face. When all of a sudden the next thing you know I'm skiing, the bottoms of my feet and derriere glancing off the edge of each step. I would have been just fine had that delicate hand formerly brushing bangs not latched on to a baluster and stayed there. I narrowly missed dislocating my shoulder.

The cat narrowly missed being flattened like a pancake. The kid never even bothered to wake up even though I know there is no way on God's green earth he didn't hear me. So yeah, hubby picked a real winner with me. Thirty-something years old and I need a life alert necklace.

Monday, March 17, 2008

I Are Ejucated (The Dumbing Down of America)

I try not to get political or provide too much commentary of the state of the world on this blog. But, I took my college placement tests today and can't help myself. The test assesses the skill level of the student in math, reading and writing and recommends remedial courses if necessary.

Now, I haven't been in high school in a VERY long time. In fact, my own daughter is attending the same college if that gives you any idea how long it's been. So I started this test knowing I'd probably score low since it's been SO LONG. I was fully prepared to sign up for refresher courses believing college course requirements would be much more stringent today than they were in the 80s. Oh, no. I passed the reading and writing portions with a perfect score. I'm telling you folks, my daughter could have passed that test when she was ten. It was THAT easy.

But that's not the disturbing part. No, what really bothered me was the comments of the academic adviser who reviewed my scores. "Wow, you did really well." I then made some casual excuse about my math score and the fact that I hadn't been in a math class in over twenty years. She replied "No REALLY, you did REALLY well" implying I did much better than most of the kids fresh out of high school she sees. That's sad. Very, very sad.

I mean, I knew schools were having problems getting kids educated. That's why I started homeschooling my son in middle school. But I hadn't actually had an experience to speak to someone in the college admissions business to confirm the fact. It appears most of the high school graduates applying to this state wide community college are required to take basic reading, writing and math courses. I'm talking spelling and vocabulary basic, not diagram-this-sentence basic. Fractions and decimals basic, not algebra basic.

So what the heck are they doing all those years in high school? And how, prey tell, are they able to GRADUATE? At this rate, I'm thinking my son could just skip high school all together and go straight to community college.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

The Pantry's Other Half

Pantry construction is almost complete and ready for staining. The crown molding is up on the pantry cupboard side.

The other side of the room was more challenging. There were a few obstacles to work around. Both the electrical panel and the access panel to the refrigerator are on this wall. We could have just walled it off and made the whole thing into a closet with bi-fold doors, but it wouldn't really fit with the age of the house. So here's what we came up with.

Storage cubbies dividing the two access panel areas, with hanging coat storage on either side and room for baskets with hats, mittens, etc. above. We moved one of our benches from the mud room in just to see if it would fit. I think I'm going to ask him to build a sturdy shelf for boots, etc. instead though.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Boy Vs. Wild

In this episode our host, Boy, gets stranded deep in the backwoods of Indiana. With only a pocket knife and his shoestrings, can he survive?

The hawks circle above, waiting for any sign of weakness.

The sun beats down as Boy scans the landscape. Spotting a deer trail, he knows if he follows it he will eventually find water.

After tromping through the thorny tangles of wild roses, he comes to a winding creek.

Boy has to wait while his not-so-limber-as-she-used-to-be camera crew finds a safer place to cross.

If he follows the creek it may lead him to a road. But should he go this way?

Or that way?

If he chooses the wrong way he could be stranded for a very, very long time. He may even have to resort to drinking his own urine. His gut instinct tells him to follow the sun and the larger raccoon tracks. A fat raccoon must know where a good source of food is.

In the end he finds his way to the road which leads to an old farmhouse. Finally, clean water to drink and a place to rest! Bear Gyliss and Les Stroud would be proud.

Stay tuned, when next week Boy and crew may actually leave their own property.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Size Does Matter

Coop size that is. Cause you don't want it too small or the little peepers will peck each other to death. Too big and they won't generate enough heat to keep themselves warm in the winter. It needs to be just right. But that, of course, depends on how many birds you have. I'm not sure how many birds I'll have. So I can't make any decisions based on that.

The only other logical variable is how much room we have to spare. To keep your birds happy you really need to figure on about 4 square feet minimum per bird inside the coop. So after dinner we wandered out and surveyed the situation. Based on the need to keep the hens safe from predators we decided a central location in the yard would be a good idea. We're hoping the "guard dogs" will help keep them safe. You know, the two hours per day the ferocious defenders are actually awake. Then we needed to factor in sunlight for the garden. Then there's the trees to work around. Oh, and the septic system. So out of 7 acres of land we ended up with a 30' x 34' spot where the coop, run, garden and compost pile could be. That leaves the coop at 10' x 16' with a part of that being used for garden storage, which brings us down to about 10' x 10'. And that, if my basic math skills are correct, means I can have up to 25 birds. Hello babies, come to Momma!

"Which way did she go?"

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

One More Try

He claims I can use the internet to try to guilt him all I want. He simply won't get the coop built in time for us to have babies this year.

I hear they're even selling them at Tractor Supply Co. in case you change your mind, Dear.

Monday, March 10, 2008

DH Says No to Babies

Obviously he has no idea how cute they are. Could you say no? I think not.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

A Palace for my Peeps

It's still snowing. I'm still sick of it. It's also bloody cold out there. Too cold to walk around and figure out where the chicken palace is going. Yep, yesterday it was a coop, today it's a palace. That's the way we do things around here. No worries though. When it comes time to actually spend the bucks it'll be back to a coop.I found a brilliant plan over at BackwoodsHome for a chicken yard and garden combination. One year the garden is in one side, the next year the chickens are. The compost heap is in the middle. About the easiest way to fertilize I can think of. So now we just need to stake it out to make sure it will fit where we're planning and then get some prices on materials. I wonder, if you live in the middle of nowhere do you have to get a building permit for a chicken coop?

Friday, March 7, 2008

Funky Chicken Economics

It's snowing yet AGAIN. I was sick of it two months ago. Now I'm in a full blown funk. So I've been sitting here trying to figure out what to do to get rid of my case of the blahs. We're not exactly motivated to go out and spend a bundle of cash with all the economic doom and gloom on the news now days so major renovations are on the back burner. But we have a few things we could do around here that are economically responsible. So I'm declaring this the weekend to think about spring and spending that economic stimulus check. That should make me feel better.

First priority will be to finish up the pantry project. A little more wood and some stain should be all we need for now. No biggie. Then we have to figure out where we're going to house these chickens. The more we've thought of it, using the barn isn't the perfect solution. I'd like for them to be a little closer to house so we can keep an eye on them. The old outhouse is about to fall over and has actually become a hazard. So I'm thinking it should come down, and we can salvage what we can of it and build a new coop in it's place. So we'll need to invest in some building materials and fencing, but we will be rewarded with plenty of eggs. And if worse comes to worse, chicken dinners. The major issue I see right now is how on earth to get them here. Hadn't really considered that when we agreed to take them. I don't know about you, but throwing them in the back seat of the car and driving 60 miles doesn't sound like a good plan to me. That's assuming we even catch them. I think I need to call my Uncle and have a conversation.

I'd also like to add a new flock of Rhode Island Red and Barred Rock chicks, but if we're going to do that we really need to get moving on the coop soon. I'd hate to have a house full of chicks with no place to move them to when they're teenagers. The Reds are good layers and the Rocks are good eatin', I just like them because they're old fashioned breeds and they look like they'd belong here.

Lastly, we need to start thinking about the garden. What we're going to grow. If we buy seed and start them indoors or just buy plants. How to keep the varmints out. I know we're growing peppers for sure. Have you priced red bell peppers at the store lately? So then we'd have chicken, eggs and vegetables all we'd need then is a cow for milk.

ROTFL. Yeah right, like anyone around here's really going to milk a cow. See, I'm feelin' less funky already.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

This, That and Whathaveyou

It's official, I get to keep him. Today, the crazy Canadian became a bona fide citizen of the U.S. of A. He passed the test and was sworn in this morning. Alas, no more Newfie jokes. (Okay, maybe just a few...)

In other news, I picked up my first pair of progressive lenses. Now I really can't see. I guess they're going to take some getting used to.

My brand spankin' new oven omits a noxious odor during preheating. According to the GE service guy it's not a flaw it's a feature. Something about the energy efficient glow bar and the cold LP Gas. He claims it will go away when the weather warms up. In the mean time I should install a vented hood. This is AFTER me sitting here two weeks ago waiting for him to show up and having to listen to a whiny teen complain about not being able to see his friends ALL DAY. The guy never showed and then lied on the paperwork claiming he HAD been here. Combine that with all my oven ordeals of late and just imagine how much restraint it took not to strangle him or hold him hostage.

I also had to file my EX husbands' taxes for the past two years so that my daughter can file her FAFSA paperwork to get a student loan. Yeah, you better go back and read that sentence again. I prepared my EX's paperwork for free. If I don't deserve a bed in heaven after this I give up trying.